The God We Worship (with Drama Update)

Dear Reader, we present (below) a two-month-old homily from the “Bates’ mailbag.” It has the mystery of Easter in it, if you look hard enough 🙂

…I have made as many phone calls to parishioners as I could, to wish everyone a happy Easter. I will continue with those, as best I can, through the Easter season.

One question has arisen in many of those conversations: ‘How are you, Father?’ As in, can you endure? With your ecclesiastical superior having openly asserted that you are a disobedient schismatic?

The homily below concludes with the update I gave two months ago. Things have changed since then: The virus came; I wrote the bishop; I turned my blog back on; bishop wrote to the parishes; my canon lawyer wrote the bishop, asking him to retract his letter.

But they have stayed the same. You can’t endure life in 21st-century America, and remain an orthodox clergyman, without some stubbornness in your soul.

I accuse no one but myself.

Please continue to pray.

[written 2/7/20]

El Greco Christ in Prayer

You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

The gospel passage we hear at Sunday Mass comes from the… Sermon on the… The Sermon on the Mount begins with the… We did not read the Beatitudes at last Sunday’s Mass, since the Feast of the Presentation took precedence. Which means we all have to go home and read the Beatitudes for spiritual reading. St. Matthew’s gospel, the beginning of chapter five. [Spanish]

The Beatitudes teach us where we can find true blessedness. They describe a kind of happiness that lies hidden from the world’s eyes. Poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure-hearted, longing for justice and truth–there we find the invisible happiness of inner communion with God.

In Sunday’s reading from the Sermon on the Mount, we hear the Lord command us to let a light shine that will move people to glorify God. “You are the light of the world,” He tells us.

Two weeks from Wednesday, Lent will arrive. During Lent, we will celebrate the Stations of the Cross on Fridays, as we always do. A unique light shone from Christ throughout His pilgrim life. But when we imagine His bitter Passion and crucifixion, we see that light at its purest–the inner strength and serenity that Jesus possessed during His Passion.

What do we Christians believe in? We believe in that inner source that Jesus had, the divine life of the soul of Christ. That inner life gave Jesus the love by which He offered Himself to the Father, for us, on the cross. We believe that the inner source of Christ’s perfect life is God. In other words, the source of Jesus’ strength and serenity during the Passion—that is the God in which we Christians believe.

Passion of the Christ Today you will be with meAs we gaze at the fourteen Stations, we see that light shining in a great darkness. An intense paradox: These little sculptures depict a hideously dark sequence of events. If we didn’t hold the Christian faith, we wouldn’t want our children exposed to these images. When Mel Gibson made his Passion of the Christ movie, people complained about the violence. But Good Friday–the real, original day–it was an R-rated movie. If they gave a rating to our Stations of the Cross, it would have to be R.

But we look at this “movie,” and we see pure light. We have lovely churches—and, right in the center, with every architectural line converging on it–the rendition of a crucified man. To us, this is the brightest light ever to shine on earth. This is our God. Only the eye of faith can see the light of The Crucified. But we know that it shines brighter than any darkness. The Passion, more gruesome than any Hollywood horror movie… Yet we see the Light of the World shining.

That makes us the light of the world. It’s good to be nice, but being nice doesn’t make anyone the light of the world. It’s good to be smart, but being smart doesn’t make anyone the light of the world. When does our light shine before others and make them glorify our heavenly Father? When they see within us the same light that shone within Jesus on Good Friday.

The dark world needs something very desperately. Namely, our Christian interior life. We need a Christian interior life. How did Jesus give heaven to the human race? By living from the deep secret within Himself, His secret divine union with the Father.

We need to wall-off a sanctuary in our souls. We need an inner tabernacle that no exterior thing can touch. We need to cultivate the life of prayerful silence. The world needs us to do this.

How? How about at least fifteen minutes of absolute silence per day?

What is Christian meditation? It’s as easy as walking quietly from one Station of the Cross to the next. Or just trying to pay attention at Mass. Or opening up the New Testament and starting to read from Matthew 1:1. Or Matthew 5:1. Or Philippians 1:1. We can’t let the devil get between us and our Bibles. Whenever anyone picks up the New Testament and reads it, the world begins to change for the better.

…Thank you for praying for our bishop and me, when we met this past Wednesday. I’m still here. Thank God.

I wish I could tell you that bishop and I solved our problem. We see this situation very differently. He regards me as an angry writer. He considers my blog posts about the problems in the Church to be a scandal themselves.

I can’t see it that way. I think what I have done in my blog is: provide sober and well-documented accounts of the dishonesty of a number of bishops. I don’t think I am the scandal.

I begged bishop to reconsider his position. I have no desire to become some kind of martyr for free speech at his expense. But the fact is: he had a press release ready, about our meeting, before the meeting even started.

I rejoice that I am still here with you. I wish I could promise you that this drama has ended for good. But I can’t. I wish the things I wrote about on my blog weren’t true. But they are. May God’s will be done here.

Friday Penance

Your unworthy servant leading Via Crucis in Jerusalem, ’09

We Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Those of us with the means to do so will clog the fast-food take-out drive-thru’s for fish sandwiches today.

But not everyone has such an opportunity. We will deal more with the painful, prison-like conditions inside nursing homes right now, in a later post. But suffice it so say: plenty of Catholics will not have a viable meatless option today.

Since we all need to keep body and soul together, no one should scruple over this. The Lord commanded His missionaries: Eat what is set before you. This law trumps the meatless-Friday law, during a dangerous virus epidemic.

On the Fridays of the year outside Lent, we all have the option of substituting a different work of penance, in lieu of abstaining from meat. For the past twenty years, I have substituted: making the Stations of the Cross. Please give yourself the liberty of taking such an option, even today, a Friday in Lent, if you have to.

The best place to make the Stations: Jerusalem. Second best: walking around a Catholic church, stopping at the fourteen points along the walls that represent the original locations in Jerusalem.

(Both St. Joseph and St. Francis will have the doors unlocked at the usual Stations time this evening. But only individual recitation of the Stations is permitted right now.)

Third-best place to make the Stations: Anywhere, including wherever you are right now.

I. Lord Jesus is condemned to death.

II. Lord Jesus takes up His cross.

III. Lord Jesus falls the first time.

IV. Lord Jesus meets His sorrowful mother.

V. Simon the Cyrene helps the Lord to carry His cross.

VI. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

VII. The Lord falls the second time.

VIII. Lord Jesus condoles the women of Jerusalem.

IX. Lord Jesus falls the third time.

X. Lord Jesus is stripped of His garments.

XI. Lord Jesus nailed to the cross.

XII. The Lord dies on the cross.

XIII. The body of the Lord laid in the arms of His mother.

XIV. They lay Him in the tomb.

…Naming the Station, then meditating on it through an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be: this suffices. Or you can use additional prayers, like those composed by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

Maybe Coronavirus Quiet Time offers you the opportunity to memorize the fourteen Stations? I have had them memorized for two decades, and I can tell you: It’s helpful, spiritually.

Having the fourteen Stations memorized allows you to make them anytime–walking, driving, exercising, beside a hospital bed (I made them with my father as he lay dying), on a plane. You name it.

Make the Stations every day for a month, or every Friday for a year, and you’ll have them memorized.


The city of Jerusalem lives under the same strictures we do right now. The streets are deserted; no pilgrims. Even there, where it all originally happened, the Christians must make the Stations privately now, rather than along the Via Dolorosa.

We are all united in this.



The Way

Tenth Station
Tenth Station

Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)

The Lord forms us in our mothers’ wombs in order to march forward through time, to a goal. And none of us can see that goal. Even us independent Americans need a guide. Because we cannot see heaven. We are all blind people when it comes to our ultimate goal.

God Incarnate has become our guide; Jesus Christ has opened the way before us. When we enter a church, the Lord guides us by His own Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and by His Word. But, whenever we enter a church, let’s take notice of the visual representation of the way to heaven, which the Lord Himself walked. All Catholic churches have the fourteen Stations of the Cross emblazoned on their walls.

When we visit the stations, we see…

1. The love of Christ for the Father.

2. His love for our souls.

3. The humility with which Jesus acted to fulfill both those loves.

Christ had fiery moments; He had angry moments–all perfectly virtuous. But one particular “Hour” of His life demonstrates the deepest parts of Himself–the Hour of His Passion. During that Hour, He showed us His ineffable humility.

Stations of the Cross

Christ’s Exodus, Stations, Marmion

Stations of the Cross

They spoke of His exodus, which He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31)

The exodus of Christ. Yes: the same word as the title of the second book of the Holy Bible. The ancient Israelites languished as slaves in Egypt, away from their Promised Land, away from the sacred domain that God had given to Abraham their forefather. But then Moses led the Exodus: The Israelites escaped their bondage. They passed over the Red Sea. They made their way to their true home.

transfigurationAll of that happened by way of foreshadowing. It all symbolized the great exodus yet to come. God Himself would come to this Egypt and share with us sons and daughters of Adam the slavery of death. God Himself would walk in this foreign land–Justice and Truth Himself on an earth full of injustice and lies.

Why did He do it? He came to lead an exodus.

The Lord Jesus ascended Mt. Tabor and allowed His divine glory to shine through, and Moses and Elijah came to Him to talk—all for one reason: Apparently cruel, confusing, heartbreaking events would soon unfold in Jerusalem. The Lord wanted to show His chosen Apostles the hidden meaning of His Passion and crucifixion.

Yes, it will look like a defeat. Yes, it will appear to be an unmitigated disaster. But do not mistake it. It will be the beginning of a mighty and glorious exodus. God will in fact win a triumph in Jerusalem—a triumph so stupendous that it will make Moses parting the Red Sea look like a cheesy half-time show by comparison.

Now, pretty soon we will have a new pope. One thing a pope does is to declare saints. Pope John Paul II declared a great monk-priest named Columba Marmion to be a saint.

Dom Columba Marmion
Dom Columba Marmion
Blessed Columba Marmion lived a life of enormous holiness; he was holy in many different ways. Let’s focus on one: Dom Columba made the Stations of the Cross every day. In other words, he made them every Friday of Lent. Plus, he made them every other Friday of the year, since the Church keeps every Friday as a kind of little weekly Lent, year-round. Plus, Blessed Columba made the Stations every other day, also: Monday-Thursday, and Saturdays and Sundays, too.

Now, maybe you’re saying to yourself: “Father is telling me that this holy man—this saintly individual—that he made the Stations of the Cross every day. But I am not altogether sure what ‘making the Stations of the Cross’ means. What does it mean?”

Okay. Good question. Let’s start with a few words of Dom Columba’s, if I might quote them:

This contemplation of Jesus’ suffering is very fruitful…That is why, if, during a few moments, interrupting your work, laying aside your preoccupations, and closing your heart to all outward things, you accompany the God-man along the road to Calvary, with faith, humility, and love, with the true desire of imitating His virtues, be assured that your souls will receive choice graces, which will transform them little by little into the likeness of Jesus.

…It suffices to visit the fourteen stations, to stay a while at each of them and there to meditate on the Savior’s Passion…The more we enter into those dispositions that filled the Heart of Jesus as He passed along the sorrowful way—love towards His Father, charity towards men, hatred for sin, humility, obedience to the Father’s will—the more our souls will receive graces and lights.

Every parish church has the fourteen stations: Jesus condemned to death. Jesus taking up His cross. Jesus falling under the weight of the cross. Jesus meeting His mother in the street on the way Calvary. St. Simon helping Jesus to carry the cross. St. Veronica wiping the Holy Face. The Lord falling under the weight of the cross again. Jesus condoling with the wailing women in the street. Jesus falling a third time as He begins to climb Calvary Hill. The centurions roughly stripping Him of His tunic. The centurions nailing Him to the cross. They plant the cross in the earth, and, after three hours of agony, God dies. They take His Body down and lay Him in His Mother’s arms. Then they lay Him in the tomb.

Fourteen stations. On the Fridays of Lent, most of the parishes of the world pray the Stations together. In our humble cluster, we make our way through them together at 7:00 in the evening. On Good Friday, at 3:00 p.m.

This is the exodus of the Savior of the world. We celebrate it constantly in the Mass. As Bl. Dom Columba put it, “devotion to the sufferings of Christ in the Way of the Cross is the devotional prayer most closely linked to the Mass.”

Let’s assume we want to get to heaven. Failing to take advantage of this particular means of devotion would be like a miner failing to take advantage of a pickaxe, or a NASCAR driver failing to take advantage of a car. Sure, you can run 500 times around Daytona Speedway on foot. But why not drive? Likewise: yes, it is possible to get to heaven without praying the Stations of the Cross. But why not hop on board a train of prayer that is definitely headed in the right direction? Friday at 7:00 (check local listings).

Ray, Jason, and St. Simon


ray romanoI.
Not sure how to watch the “Golf Channel.” But if I could, I would definitely tune in for Raymond’s golf lessons

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Let’s stop taking around things. Let’s stop living in a fantasy world.

The problem has a name.

He is tall. He is handsome.

But he is not a good NFL quarterback. He never has been, and he never will be.

The problem IS: Number 17, Jason Campbell…

In honor of Friday, the day our Lord carried the cross, we present a beautiful meditation submitted by an anonymous reader:

Simon says… Blood, Sweat, and Incense

A great gift was given to St Simon of Cyrene; a gift he didn’t want at first. He didn’t want to become involved in Our Dear Lord’s Passion. He probably would have preferred to be an anonymous face in the crowd. He was merely a strong man in the right place, at the right time. Simon was pressed into service; forced to assist our Dear Lord in His struggle. But, through this forced burden, Simon became a great saint.

Continue reading “Ray, Jason, and St. Simon”